Learning to listen to life's messages

28 March 2018 human potential
Paul McGillivray

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash

I love personal growth and transformation. I love the idea that we can improve ourselves, rethink and redefine ourselves; performing continuous improvement on our minds, bodies, habits, beliefs and skills.

I've been pretty much consumed with this practice for the last year or so, ever since life dropped a bomb in my lap that changed everything.

In my experience, what can seem like the most devastating life mic-drops are also the events that hold the most potential for transformation.

The times in my life where I've been floored and left speechless - a useless wreck, sure only that my life as I know it is over - are major milestones. I feel like the 'me before' and the 'me after' those milestones are two very different people.

Every time, the 'me after' was the better version.

There's a reassuring feeling now when I look back on those few times in my life, as I know now that when the next big event happens, part of me will recognise that this is life's wake-up call; the next end-of-level videogame baddie that I need to embrace before I can move up a level.

Even though there may be shock, pain, fear and vulnerability, a part of me recognises right away that life is gently telling me to slow down, to de-stress, to watch my diet, to exercise, to meditate, to recognise and appreciate the most important things repeatedly, and in a myriad of ways.

I learnt that particular lesson the hard way.

Learning to listen

A few years ago, life sent me a message and I ignored it, and the message came back louder. Then louder still, and in my stuck-in-my-own-head, self-obsessed, ungrounded day-to-day living, I continued to ignore the increasing episodes of illness, the pain, the chronic fatigue, the stress.

It took a lot to make me stop and listen to life's messages, though it doesn't need to be that way. If I'd only listened earlier, heard the whispers, life wouldn't have had to shout. But shout it did. Oh my God did it shout. In the end I heard, but not before it affected my health. I became determined to never make life have to shout again.

To hear the whispers, I needed to learn what self-intimacy and intuition were. To deeply listen. And I needed to learn to embrace the emotions that I'd been burying, to grow, to evolve, and to make sure that I was doing all I could to make the most of the life that I had almost let slip away from me.

It took me a year to learn to listen - to listen to my body to discover what it needed to heal, and what I needed to avoid - to move from 'bed-bound' to 'back-at-work' status, and to discover what intuition is and the wisdom it holds.

I learnt that to get well and stay well, I needed to heal myself not just physically, but also psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Cranial Sacral Therapy, EFT, Grounding, Herbal Medicine, Jyotish Astrology, Kinesiology, a Low-Carb Diet, Matrix Reimprinting, Meditation, Vedic Puja's and countless supplements and smoothie combinations, all explored and tested in my mission to listen to what did and did not work for my body.

I feel blessed that I had the support of my wife and daughter and my work colleagues to make it to a place where my health was manageable.

By necessity in many ways though, during recovery, I'd taken my eye off several balls. I ignored some of life's new whisperings, so along came another end-of-level baddie.

I took on this challenge with a newfound sense of confidence and wonder this time. Everything was there to lose, but my wife Jeannie and I had learnt that this was opportunity knocking at our door. We knew that this was another of life's openings. We knew that this challenge meant that we could lose everything, but we also knew that if we listened, and if we fearlessly embraced this new unknown, with surrender and grace and a thirst to learn from the experience, we had a chance to level-up.

And so we did.

A new chapter

I remembered when Jeannie and I first started Remote, pretty fresh out of college. I studied countless business books, and took my inspiration from them.

I'd dropped that habit years previously, and so had stopped learning from those with more experience than me. I'd stopped working on myself, and on the business. I'd stopped looking to evolve, to grow, to take on new ideas and adopt better methods, practices and ways of living and working.

This was life's new message. I'd begun to recover my health, but the rest of my life and work had plateaued. I'd stopped learning. I'd stopped growing. Things needed to change.

So, I started reading again. And reading and reading and reading and learning.

I bought a Kindle so that I could take 70 books with me wherever I went and dip into whichever was relevant to whatever obstacle I was facing or quality I was contemplating on at the time.

I read Cal Newport, Dan Harris, James Altucher, Kamal Ravikant, Michael Hyatt, Hal Elrod, Ryan Holiday, Simon Sinek, James Clear and Ray Dalio and a host of others. I subscribed to Medium and found myself inspired by Benjamin Hardy, Tim Denning, Thomas Oppong, Darius Foroux and Tony Stubblebine.

I became a sponge of learning, information, methods, practices and schools of thought - and I started to put them into practice.

I started journaling, planning my days and weeks, creating my own productivity plan that took ideas from Moran's 12 Week Year and Hyatt & Harkavy's Living Forward and Ryder Carroll's Bullet Journal and BestSelf Co's planning techniques.

I learnt about focus, productivity, strategy and vision, and how important it is to get clear on where I need to get to, and what I need to do to get there, and what the next-most-important-step is, and how to execute it - and I executed.

I learnt about reflection and finding meaning, dropping distractions and finding my flow, and I begun to find the thread that runs through most of the lessons. Common themes that come up time and time again.

I started to develop my own way, built from the parts that I'd learned and that resonated with me and my own outlook on life.

I caught a glimpse of the person I had the potential to become. I had a glimpse, in the distance, of the best version of myself. I saw my potential, and that of my company to transform the lives of others, and to help other businesses level-up and achieve their goals and dreams.

Just as I saw the common threads that run through the productivity and business books, I saw the common threads that have run through all of the things that I've done in my life. I saw the reason I felt compelled to start particular projects, from music, to spirituality to business, and saw that the reason was the same in each project.

I saw what made those projects come alive, what made me work all day on them while forgetting to eat, what kept me up in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep because I was to excited and full of ideas. I saw what gives my life meaning.

Life had whispered a message, and I had listened. So this time, I leveled-up.

In doing so, I saw my purpose. I found my WHY.

A life's purpose revealed

I love personal growth and transformation. I know that we all have the potential to become the very best versions of ourselves. I believe that the same can be said of organisations; that we have the potential to level-up our businesses and workplaces to achieve things that we never imagined possible previously.

I love to find the blueprint to processes, and use that blueprint to grow, and help and inspire others to do the same, to achieve their goals and potential too.

I believe that when we know what our goals are, we can examine our processes, and find the main obstacle to those goals, and work to remove them, creating new levels of flow and efficiency and effectiveness and achievement and contentment.

Then we can find the next biggest obstacle, and remove that, and do it again, and then again, and this process of continual improvement and evolution can be practiced at an individual level, and at an organisational level, streamlining business processes and generating greater profits, and a happier workforce.

I have found that in discovering and practicing these methodologies, the impossible becomes possible, and the possible becomes probable.

We can make a difference to the world.

We can create meaningful work.

We can make it all not just "worth it", but something that drives us to get up early in the morning and start our day, because the possibilities are just SO EXCITING.

There is, though, a caveat. It is this.

It's so easy to fall down the addictive rabbit-hole of productivity, of striving for success and achievement, and get wrapped up and in your head and focussed on the future. I did it with all those books and articles, started to think that the current version of myself and my life wasn't good enough. I started to get ill again from the strain of overthinking and overworking.

But, I'd learnt to listen. And because I heard I slowed down. I found a gentle flow, and I kept up what worked for me, and I didn't get ill like I had before.

This time there was an intimacy with myself, I was listening so life didn't need to shout. I'd leveled up. And the process begins again.

And again.

And again…..

Paul McGillivray

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